Lack of Support Preventing Special Session for Insurance Hike

LITTLE ROCK, AR (KATV)--Not enough support in the state legislature yet, is what's stopping Governor Beebee from calling a special session to address a looming hike in teacher insurance rates.

Eight legislative leaders are holding out, but just two senators are needed to call a special session.

Insurance rates have to be published in advance for public school employees to start signing up by November 1st.

Officials say if by tomorrow, those two senators don't support the package of bills, the short-term goal will fall through and at that point, calling a special session would be pointless.

"They're very hopeful that a special session will be called, and that there can be this temporary fix plus some long term things put in place," said Michele Linch, Arkansas State Teachers Association, Executive Director.

Lawmakers have until tomorrow, before it's too late to call a special session, which could stop another 50 percent hike for health insurance premiums.

"In over two years, the increase for some has been almost 100 percent, so that's where a lot of the frustration lies, it's not just this one year we need to look at," added Linch.

Linch said, more than 70,000 employees are facing these hikes and nearly 38,000 are certified teachers.

She adds, there are issues including a funding stream and educating employees on health insurance options.

However, it will be up to legislative leaders to decide if using $43 Million in state surplus this year, to lower premium increases to 10 percent, is worth it.

"They're hearing all kinds of stuff from different folks, you've got some folks calling saying that's too much money, don't be spending that much money, you've got some folks saying we want more of a change, permanent change before we vote for that much money," said Governor Mike Beebee.

"They take care of our most precious resources in our state, our children, and we need to take care of them," said Linch.

77 representatives are in favor of passing the bills, while only 25 senators are.

That means just two more need to say yes by tomorrow, or Governor Beebee says it will be too late.

Hikes would take effect January 1st.{}